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ASU Swimming focuses their strokes on first ever NCAA National Championship

The team looks to improve on their best season yet, led by world record holder Léon Marchand

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The ASU Swim and Dive team heads into the season off the back of a second place finish at the NCAA Championships and record breaking times from junior Léon Marchand.

Since 2014, UC Berkeley and the University of Texas have alternated holding the first and second place spots in the NCAA Men's Swim and Dive Championships. 

ASU changed that this year by reaching their highest placement ever in the championships, coming in second place behind Cal. With momentum from arguably the greatest season the team has ever had, the Sun Devils aim to take their team to the next level in the 2023-24 season.

Assistant coach Logan Hirka said that last season's success was "just a stepping stone." 

"I think of us as a lot better than we were," Hirka said. "There were a lot of things that could have been better and could have made us better."  

Due to the level of success ASU swimmers have attained, they are getting more and more attention. The face of that attention is world record holder, junior Léon Marchand

Marchand, "a great swimmer, but an even better person" according to Hirka, brings his talent and leadership back for another season to set the Sun Devils up for success after he dominated last year. Marchand currently holds the world record for the 400 IM after swimming a 4:02.50 at the 2023 World Aquatics Championships, breaking Michael Phelps' previous record of 4:03.84.

Assistant Coach Derek Schmitt said Marchand is someone that a lot of the guys on the team look up to for good reason.

"He is bringing the team to a higher level," Schmitt said. "He is at practice with them every day and they can see this is what it takes to get there."

Marchand's dominance in the pool has drawn more eyes to the team. Hirka said this publicity comes with being up for any challenge, something that remains true for the team and helps them stay resilient. 

With this resilience, the team looks to "come out on top again," said sophomore Owen McDonald regarding their last year in the Pac-12. 

McDonald, who placed 5th in the 200 back and 6th in the 100 back during the NCAA Championships said that building his swim career, along with competing and having fun with his teammates accumulated into one big moment — the NCAA Champs. 

"We all worked our butts off to keep the grind up," McDonald said. "Everyday all of us looked at each other afterwards and we're like, 'man that was fun."' 

To get back to the NCAAs, the team plans to keep their game plan relatively similar to last year, there will just be a few minor differences. To Schmitt, maintaining that success means asking his swimmers one essential question: "Did you get better today?"

Schmitt said he asks his swimmers this question even if they need just the tiniest improvements, because at the end of the season, the results will show. This was a key component in how the Sun Devils took that step up in the previous campaign.

Additionally, McDonald said the team is usually out of shape after the summer, but this year they started at a level that took them four weeks to get to last season.

"We are getting fully prepared mentally too," McDonald said. "We have group meetings, we have team captains meetings, we are keeping each other accountable."

Hirka said there are a lot of things keeping the team "hungry on a daily basis," but he looks forward to racing Cal, the defending champs, on Jan. 20 and competing with the University of Stanford in Palo Alto on Jan.19. 

"We are not holding anything back, we are here to win every meet," McDonald said. 

The team takes on Georgia in their first meet at home on Sept. 22. 

Edited by Vinny Deangelis, Alexis Waiss and Caera Learmonth.

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